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A Great Depression reading list

Posted by Christopher Shea  May 1, 2009 03:57 PM

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Eric Rauchway's "The Great Depression: A Very Short Introduction," Fred Freidel's Roosevelt biography, even my old Baumol-Blinder macro textbook: Like a lot of people, I've embarked on a haphazard effort to figure out what causes economy-wide financial implosions -- the crisis of the late 1920s and '30s being the most obvious point of reference -- and what works, and doesn't, in combating them.

On the Foreign Affairs Website, the Harvard economist Richard Cooper offers his informed opinion as to the canonical works on the Great Depression. It's refreshing that the list reaches back as far as 1949:

"Economic Survey, 1919-1939," by W. Arthur Lewis. Routledge, 1949. Especially Chapter 4.

"The Great Crash of 1929," John Kenneth Galbraith. Mariner Books, 1997.

"A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960," by Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz. Princeton University Press, 1971. And "Lessons From the Great Depression," by Peter Temin. MIT Press, 1991. (Paired because they offer contrasting views.)

"The World in Depression, 1929-1939," by Charles P. Kindleberger. University of California Press, 1986.

"Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression, 1919-1939. By Barry Eichengreen. Oxford University Press, 1992.

"Essays on the Great Depression," by Ben S. Bernanke. Princeton University Press, 2004.

Funnily enough, no Amity Schlaes.

For Cooper's informative comments on each of these books, you need to be a Foreign Affairs subscriber. I just re-upped for $32, online.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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